I gave up alcohol over six years ago after no longer being able to ignore how detrimental my consumption was on, well, pretty much everything. I never got into trouble but I can’t think of a single instance when it made my life ultimately better (except for being tasty). I wrote ALL about it here. For me, back in the days when I was all rock and not a dad, today was an especially significant one for a curated day of inebriation. The saying goes that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I definitely felt that. Even prior to spending a month working in Dublin back in 2000 (arriving the day after St. Patrick’s Day), I felt some kind of kinship with the country and her people. I dunno, is there an Ashkenazi connection to the Irish? If not, I guess it stems from a love of early U2, Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, The Waterboys. Stiff Little Fingers, wool, Guinness, cabbage, potatoes and lilting accents. I guess, for health, I should’ve poured as much effort into wool as I did Guinness.
The last St. Patrick’s Day celebration I remember, and the memories are pretty foggy, was an ad agency work event that was rich in Guinness and Jameson’s and barren of food. The night ended lying on the grass shivering in my backyard trying to not roll over into a puddle of puke. And shamefully avoiding any family member from seeing me in such condition.
It was still a few years out until I stopped drinking and I think that was the last time I was ever sick from the drink (though many hangovers followed). Only a fool, which I was many a time, would miss that.
So where does that leave me now as an aware, non-drinking celebrant of the Emerald Isle when I don’t even get to eat corned beef with my cabbage and potatoes today?
I suppose I’ll start where my love started, with the extensive musical history of Ireland. After all, that’s where the term craic originated. From a lively gathering filled with music came the party, the good times, the warmth, the conversation that the Irish are known for. That setting conjures up so many poetic images, a peat fire warming a snug as trad music plays in the background. My memories of Ireland include that, though the heat was likely electric. However, the low shelf of blue smoke, fiddle and bodhran playing as old men in tweed chatted with one another could’ve been from any time within the last couple hundred years. Yes, there wasn’t a table or a hand that wasn’t propping up a drink, which leads me to wonder where I would fit into this scene today. The thick cigarette smoke is now gone, thankfully. But without the drink, would the craic exist? I have to think that it definitely would. As much as alcohol is interwoven into the culture, the lives of people are their truest representation. If there’s one thing I learned quickly, and miss greatly, is that the Irish are among the most outgoing and friendly people I ever met. It’s not their fine whiskeys and stouts that define them. It’s their human spirit. That is what I will remember first and foremost.
So, today, how else will I honour the country and people of that great country? I will sing along to all those great artists I mentioned, and more. And while I’m only drinking uisce today, I may just make a celebratory meal of boiled potatoes and cabbage, but I’ll see what sort of corned tempeh I can muster.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit, all you Irish and Irish-ish friends.
May your best day of your past be the worst day of your future.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.